PRESS REGULATION
Television, Radio, Internet, Print

The UK Government is to review the law after convicted murderer Tony Martin sold his story to the Daily Mirror for £125,000. Martin was convicted of murder after shooting a 16 year old burglar in the back and wounding his accomplice as they tried to burgle his remote and rundown farm, Bleak House. Martin’s original sentence was reduced from life to five years on the grounds of diminished responsibility and he served three years of this. Martin also signed an exclusive deal with the ITV programme Tonight With Trevor MacDonald, also for a fee, to give his first interview on UK television. At one point the murdered burglar’s accomplice was going to sue Martin for his own injuries on legal aid. The accomplice, Brendan Fearon, has just been released from prison on drugs related offences.

The Press Complaints Commission Code states that:
Payments or offers of payments for stories, pictures or information must not be made directly or through agents of convicted or confessed criminals ÿ…. except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and payment is necessary. The public interest includes (i) detecting or exposing crime or serious misdemeanour (ii) protecting public health and safety and (iii) preventing the public being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organisation.

The Independent Television Commission code states that:
Former criminals should not be paid for interviews about their crimes unless an important public interest is served.

The PCC will now seek answers from the Editor of the Daily Mirror who will undoubtedly try to justify the payment as in the public interest. Even rival publications have accepted that there is public debate about home-owners rights to use self defence against burglars and that there is public interest in both the role of the police in rural areas and the fact that a compensation claim could be brought by the injured accomplice using state provided funds.

For further details, see The Times, 30 July 2003.

 

ADDENDUM

On 2 October 2003 the Press Complaints Commission ruled that the Daily Mirror WAS justified in paying £125,000 to Tony Martin. The PCC conceded that Mr Martin has ‘unique insight’ into a matter which was of great public concern and what he had to say was of considerable importance in a major debate on law and order. The PCC agreed that the Mirror had not glorified Mr Martin, nor had it condoned his actions.